Da Camera, founded in 1987, was created with the intention to produce a series of thematically programmed concerts designed to attract new listeners to the concert hall. By bringing together leading American and international musicians, specifically selected for each program, Da Camera concerts offer a broad range of repertoire and musical styles while ensuring a product of outstanding musical excellence. Members of the Houston Symphony and faculty of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, University of Houston’s Moores School and others are often included in Da Camera programs, expanding the opportunities for locally based musicians of national acclaim and enriching our community by enhancing the musical life of artists who choose to live here.
Under the artistic leadership of Sarah Rothenberg since 1994, Da Camera maintains its commitment to this high caliber of musicianship brought together to perform in its Houston-based subscription series at the Wortham Theater Center and The Menil Collection; its extensive education and outreach activities; recordings and touring initiatives.
Ms. Rothenberg, an acclaimed pianist widely regarded for her innovative and thoughtful programs, has broadened Da Camera’s goals to include connecting music to other art forms in originally conceived multi-disciplinary productions as well as in programs relating music to the social and political context in which it is composed. Da Camera is further committed to expanding awareness of American music through the presentation of a jazz series and commissioning of new compositions, such as Kaija Saariaho’s recent Sombre and Jason Moran’s Holed Up. In pursuing these goals, Da Camera has established collaborative relationships with a wide range of cultural institutions in Houston and throughout the world. To expand its impact in the community, Da Camera has firmly incorporated extensive education and outreach activities in its seasonal programming. In 2009, Da Camera founded the Young Artist Program, providing professional development and performance opportunities for emerging musicians.
In 1995, Da Camera of Houston produced the first of its acclaimed Music and the Literary Imagination programs, conceived and directed by Ms. Rothenberg, launching the organization’s national profile as a leader in innovative concert programs with a series at New York’s Great Performers at Lincoln Center. Since the outstanding success of Marcel Proust’s Paris (which debuted in Houston and went on to be performed a dozen times for nearly 5,000 people in three different languages) subsequent programs bringing together music with works of such writers as Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Anna Akhmatova have been performed across the country to sold-out houses and widespread critical acclaim. During the 1998/99 season, these productions brought international acclaim to Da Camera of Houston with performances at the prestigious International Cervantino Festival in Mexico, De Ijsbreker in The Netherlands and the Barbican Centre in London.
Moondrunk, a particularly ambitious Da Camera’s production, featuring Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire and music of Brahms and J. Strauss, premiered in Houston in 1997. This original chamber music/dance theater production–conceived by Ms. Rothenberg, with choreography and stage direction by John Kelly–performed to capacity audiences at Broadway’s 42nd Street New Victory Theater in 1999 when it opened Lincoln Center’s “New Visions” series. Extensive press coverage of the event from a broad range of national media included The New York Times, ArtForum and American Theater, which proclaimed the production “the birth of a new genre” — reaffirming Da Camera’s significant national and international role as a leading innovator in producing and presenting music. Further confirmation came in 1999 from the Chamber Music America/American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Award for Adventurous Programming which granted Da Camera a special commendation for outstanding programming concepts.
Da Camera’s approach to programming concerts of musical substance that offer a wide range of repertoire and styles as well as relate music to other art forms and relevant topics is succeeding in building new concert audiences. This strategy is supported by a personalized approach to constituency development that includes a strong commitment to education and outreach activities. National and international attention toward Da Camera productions on tour enhances local awareness and pride in the organization while generating important earned revenues from performance fees. This integrated approach to organizational development has propelled Da Camera’s stature as an essential Houston institution of national and international importance.